Altitude says no more negotiations with Comcast.
After months of failed negotiations, Comcast just got slapped with a federal antitrust lawsuit courtesy of Altitude Sports & Entertainment. In August, Altitude's contract expired with the big three of television service providers, DISH Network, DirecTV, and Comcast. The channel was able to reach a multi-year deal with DirecTV at the end of October, but the other two aren't budging. As a result, Altitude has been blacked out for Comcast and DISH Network.
The channel broadcasts live games for a majority of our local pro sports teams, minus the Broncos. While it has been off the usual providers in the area, Altitude Sports, a Kroenke-owned company, was able to provide a streaming workaround to several bars in the Denver-metro area to televise local games.
Monday, it filed a suit against Comcast on grounds of an antitrust violation. Basically, the lawsuit claims that Comcast is trying to impose terms on Altitude that it is not imposing on the regional sports networks that it owns. Some of those terms include lower payments to Altitude, moving the channel off the basic cable package, and increasing a line item for a region sports fee that customers have to pay.
Altitude Sports stated this in the lawsuit:
“If Comcast is successful in its campaign against Altitude, Comcast will quickly and easily take over regional sports production in the Denver DMA [Designated Market Area]. In economic and legal terms, that means that Comcast is a ‘rapid entrant’ and is therefore considered a direct competitor to Altitude for antitrust purposes.”
In other words, Altitude feels that Comcast is driving independent regional sports networks out of business, buying up many others, and creating a monopoly on sports programming in the state.
Comcast is not taking it lying down. It claims that Altitude is not a high-traffic channel that has been asking for annual fee increases that are driving up costs.
“This is a meritless lawsuit in an intensely competitive market where Comcast has no competitive regional sports network and Altitude has multiple distribution alternatives,” Comcast wrote in the statement. “Instead of pursuing baseless litigation, Altitude should engage in responsible commercial negotiations that would allow Comcast to distribute its programming to those customers who want it without driving up costs for customers who do not. Since at this point Altitude has rejected all reasonable offers, we have provided our customers with a credit until we reach an agreement. We will vigorously defend ourselves against Altitude’s claims.”
The lawsuit requested a jury trial on two counts federal and four counts of state antitrust law violations. Comcast has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit once served.
What do you think of this whole debacle with Altitude and Comcast? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.